What art has taught me about business

I’ve always loved creating with my hands, and I’ve been doing quilting and cross-stitch for over twenty years.  Over the last couple of years ago, I dared to venture into other art forms:  drawing, sketching, Zentangle, painting, coloring.  I don’t really have that whole “Oh, but I’m not artistic,” as I’ve seen for years the variety of artistic talent.  I mean, c’mon, a painting with a line that sells for thousands? Anyone can be creative with that model as inspiration.

The art I create is within my realm, meaning it’s going to look like certain things, and it’s not going to look like others.  And I’m okay with that.  This wasn’t one of the lessons I needed to learn, although I recognize that it can be important lesson for others.

So, in my exploration of art and creativity, here are some things I’ve learned…

It can be good to have a plan.

I may not have an entire plan when I start a project, but I usually have a bit of an idea.  Sometimes the plan is a color palette or a particular design I want to feature.  You have to start somewhere, and a plan helps you know where to start.  (And it’s good to know that you can always change the plan as you learn more information and the landscape change.)

Flower Spiral 1

I really wanted the spirals of the dots to be prominent.

 

Application of this lesson in business:  You can do a whole lot in your business, floundering from one thing to the next.  A plan helps you direct your actions and give a cohesive structure. And you can always change and adjust the plan – and you should.

 

Sometimes that plan is just do the next step you can see, even if you can’t see beyond that next step.

When I get into a design, especially an intricate coloring page, I have no idea what the finished product might look like.  So, all I do is figure out the next step… what is the next thing to color and what color to use.  I don’t worry about what the third or fifth or ninth step is.  I just take the step in front of me.

This was a design that I had no overall plan for... I just picked the next place to start coloring and went from there.

This was a design that I had no overall plan for… I just picked the next place to start coloring and went from there.

 

Application of this lesson in business:  It can be so easy to be paralyzed by not having a concrete, clear plan.  Paralysis is NOT a good thing! So just taking the next step (write the blog post, offer a new training webinar, surveying your list) can create momentum and bring clarity.

 

Trust your gut

Some of the art I’ve been creating has been what is called “intuitive painting,” where you just paint, embellish, write whatever comes to you – from that place of trust and instinct.  No judging, no editing, no mistakes, no negative self-talk.  You have to trust that the mark you’re making now will somehow be incorporated into the whole.

This is my newest intuitive painting in progress. I have no idea what's coming or even what orientation the canvas will be! I will just close my eyes, trust my instincts, and take the next step.

This is my newest intuitive painting in progress. I have no idea what’s coming or even what orientation the canvas will be! I will just close my eyes, trust my instincts, and take the next step.

 

Application of this lesson in business: You can listen to thousands of voices telling you what you should do, but if you have a strong instinct about what you should do – or not do – in your business, follow that voice.  Because if you don’t, you’ll learn the hard way that your inner wise self knows what she’s doing.

 

Be willing to take risks

You can’t play it safe or worry too much if it won’t be perfect.  I’ve tried different colors and palettes, different techniques, and actually painted on large, expensive canvases.  I’ve put that splotch of paint on a canvas and had no idea what was next.  I created crappy looking stuff, and I just gessoed right over it.  And I tried again. And again.  I tried something new and sucked at it, and so I tried again.

This is a painting that I ended up completely gessoing over. While I like this preliminary version, I kept adding colors and patterns that I ended up not liking. So I scratched the whole thing and started over.

This is a painting that I ended up completely gessoing over. While I like this preliminary version, I kept adding colors and patterns that I ended up not liking. So I scratched the whole thing and started over.

 

Application of this lesson in business: Honestly, if you are risk-adverse, don’t run a business!  You need to take risks all the time: pick up the phone and ask for the sale, raise your rates, say no to that non-ideal client who is raising red flags all over the place despite waving a big, fat check.

 

Know that a mistake is not the end of the world, failure, or evidence that you suck

In art, the saying is that there is no such thing as a mistake.  Sometimes what looks like a mistake can actually be an avenue to a better-looking piece, or an inspiration for another element.  And sometimes it’s just a mistake.  Oh well.

See that spot in the middle? When I started to color the left swirl, I started in the wrong place, and it would have "ruined" the entire piece. So, I photocopied the other, blank side of the center design, colored it correctly, and pasted it over the mistake. All better!

See that spot in the middle? When I started to color the left swirl, I started in the wrong place, and it would have “ruined” the entire piece. So, I photocopied the other, blank side of the center design, colored it correctly, and pasted it over the mistake. All better!

 

Application of this lesson in business: I think the same can be true in business. What looks like a mistake might open a door to an opportunity you didn’t know was possible. Or a product or program that doesn’t sell is a nudge from your inner self that that particular product wasn’t in your Zone of Genius anyway.

 

Celebrate what you’ve created

I love finishing things!  I work, I create, I finish… and then I move right onto the next project. I’m learning to enjoy the process and truly believe in the “journey itself is the destination.”  So, I take pictures and save them and even post in social media.  I’m proud of what I’ve done, as I should be.

I loved the process of creating these fleece blankets! I even bought extra fabric for no one in particular just so I could make more!

I loved the process of creating these fleece blankets! I even bought extra fabric for no one in particular just so I could make more!

 

Application of this lesson in business: We fall down even more NOT celebrating what we’ve accomplished in our businesses.  I frequently take my clients and students in my programs through an exercise called My Successes.  You HAVE had successes.  You’ve done amazing things.  Regularly review all you’ve done and accomplished, big and small.

 

One step at a time

A journey is made through a series of steps, not one giant leap.  If anything, my quilts and cross-stitch projects over the years have taught me that.  A cross-stitch project can have hundreds of thousands of stitches.  I’m not going to get that done in one sitting, twenty, or even fifty.  It’s one step (or, in this case, one stitch) at a time.  If I look at the project overall, I can get overwhelmed by how much there is to do.  I have to close my eyes to the big picture for a bit and focus on the step in front of me…. and enjoy the process.

I have been working on this cross-stitch design since 1996. Yes, really.

I have been working on this cross-stitch design since 1996. Yes, really.

 

Application of this lesson in business: This is probably even truer in business.  You’re not going to build your business to six figures overnight.  It’s a step at a time.  Yes, there’s certainly a shit-ton of things to do in your business, and you can only do one at a time.  So just do the next step in front of you for now.

 

Once you get to the end, you might wish you had done things differently.

Sometimes you find when you’re at the end or something is finished that you wish you had done it differently – you can see what it should or could have been.  You have to learn to say, “Oh well, it is what it is” and move on.  And you can’t let that stop you.  See what you can learn and go on to the next piece.

See the viny things around edges? They really should be green because they're, well, vines! But when I was coloring the design, I looked at the whole and wanted more blue. I made a decision and I understand why I did. And I wish the viny things were green!

See the viny things around edges? They really should be green because they’re, well, vines! But when I was coloring the design, I looked at the whole and wanted more blue. I made a decision and I understand why I did. And I wish the viny things were green!

 

Application of this lesson in business: You’re going to make mistakes.  You’re going to wish you had done things differently.  But you can’t let fear of failure or not getting it “quite right” keep you from moving forward.  So what if you changed your brand recently? So what if you put out a program that was not in line with your new brand and identity? So what if your last YouTube video only got 4 views?  Learn and move on.

 

Have fun and be playful

Isn’t that the whole point of art? To play with your creativity and to have fun?  I can’t be all stuffy and only do things that going to be frame-able. Whatever!

I found this paint technique online; it's called Hefty Hack. I couldn't wait to try it, and then I covered as much paper as I could find!

I found this paint technique online; it’s called Hefty Hack. I couldn’t wait to try it, and then I covered as much paper as I could find!

 

Application of this lesson in business: Boy, talk about an important lesson! If you’re going to go to the trouble to own and run your business, then why not make it fun? Otherwise, you could go get a corporate job and be miserable.  If you can’t have fun and enjoy your business, then what are you doing all this for anyway?

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